Water Quality Awareness Month underscores importance of protecting water sources

August is Water Quality Awareness Month

August is Water Quality Awareness Month, a month devoted to protecting our precious natural resource: water.

Every one of us lives in a watershed, meaning our land drains into a body of water such as a lake or stream. Water quality is under threat from trash and pollutants, which can enter our waterways through stormwater runoff and flooding.

Johnson County’s stormwater program is focused on improving water quality in our lakes and streams. The program ensures the health of residents and their pets while also supporting the local ecosystem. It  provides stormwater management services for flood risk reduction and water quality protection projects.

Stormwater staff adopted a floodplain map in 2009 – and they continually maintain it as an effort of the stormwater program. The map helps staff identify locations for flood reduction projects and is available for the public to view.

The importance of protecting water quality

Stormwater grate with water flowing in

When stormwater runs off into our waterways, it can have a harmful effect on the quality of the water.

Stormwater is not treated before it makes it to lakes and streams, and it replenishes our sources of drinking and recreational water. As stormwater staff like to emphasize, anything that’s on the ground will eventually end up in our water.

The county’s storm drainage system is comprised of storm drains, pipes and channels, allowing rain and melted snow to drain from streets into this network. As it runs off, stormwater picks up contaminants and carries them into nearby bodies of water.

Deliberate dumping of waste is a big no-no, as it can endanger our water supply and impact wildlife. But seemingly harmless household chemicals and waste in your yard can be sources of pollution as well.

Common sources of stormwater pollution include:

  • Automotive fluids
  • Litter, including cigarette butts
  • Fertilizer and weed killer from yards
  • Grass clippings, leaves and other yard waste
  • Pet waste
  • Soap, paint, cleaning supplies and other household chemicals
  • Sediment from exposed ground

Tips to protect our water quality

Rain garden with tall green plants

The county’s stormwater program works to combat stormwater pollution and protect our water supply. During Water Quality Awareness Month, stormwater staff encourage additional action to help improve our water quality. These simple tips can go a long way to combatting pollution and flooding:

  • Disposes of leaves and yard waste so it doesn’t end up in our waterways.
  • Pick up pet waste and throw it in the trash to combat bacteria runoff.
  • Pick up trash, as it can harm aquatic life if it makes it into streams and rivers.
  • Limit use of fertilizer, a cause of toxic blue-green algae in local lakes.

South Lake and Wilderness Lake are two lakes in Johnson County that frequently see toxic blue-green algae, the result of nutrient pollution from fertilizer runoff. This algae occurs when there is an increase in phosphorus and nitrates in the water, and it can be dangerous to people and pets.

Through the Contain the Rain program, the county funds cities’ stormwater cost-share programs, reimbursing 50% of the cost of stormwater management projects. Projects like rain barrels soak up stormwater for use in your lawn or garden, preventing household chemicals from running off into nearby lakes and streams.

While the 2023 programs end Nov. 1, it’s never too early to start thinking about a project for next year – the program reopens spring 2024.

Public Works